Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
Go here for this week's Passing Matchups.
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
LA Rams at Arizona
The Rams get a significant improvement in their backfield this week as bell cow running back Kyren Williams is set to return from injury. (His status should be monitored closely throughout the week, but coach Sean McVay has seemed confident in his bounce back all along.) Williams dominated the backfield before going down, claiming 83% of team carries in Weeks 2-6. In games without him, Royce Freeman had some success (50 carries, 215 yards, 1 touchdown) but the team managed just 3.5 per rush. The last time we saw Williams, he was churning out 158 yards on 20 attempts against these very Cardinals. With the passing game struggling in Los Angeles, expect them to turn to Kyren Williams this week once again in a run-heavy approach.
The Cardinals have their quarterback back, and they've become much more competitive in recent weeks because of Kyler Murray's return. That said, the defense remains one of the NFL's worst by any measure. Against the run, they sit 26th league-wide in yardage, and only three teams have allowed more touchdowns. Eight of their last nine opponents have produced at least an 80-yard runner, with six of those eight topping 95. And that included a Week 6 date with these very Rams, in which Kyren Williams turned 20 carries into 158 yards before leaving injured. For the most part, this is a mix-and-match defensive unit with guys who are more suited for special teams than starting defensive roles, and the Cardinals are desperately lacking consistent playmakers. Top linebacker Kyzir White, for example, has played every defensive snap thus far despite grading near the bottom of the league's starters. Ultimately, there's far too much reliance on the safeties to sprint into the box and make plays. Until further notice, this has to be viewed as one of fantasy's easiest matchups to sift through.
Cleveland at Denver
The Browns have yet to find a consistent running approach without Nick Chubb, who's out for the year with torn knee ligaments. Chubb has produced 5.3 yards per rush as a Brown; over 8 games without him, the team sits at just 3.7. That said, it's a deep backfield that produces in all phases of the offense. Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt work behind one of the game's premier run-blocking lines, ranked fifth by Footballguys' Matt Bitonti. It's already helped to spring Ford for a pair of game-breaking 69-yard runs against good defenses. Given this generous matchup, he could easily post his biggest line of the year.
Kudos to the Broncos, who have turned their season around and worked back into the thick of the Wild Card race. But it must be noted that they're doing it with what still ranks as 2023's worst run defense. The 160 yards they've allowed per game sits 22 yards (14%) worse than the 31st-ranked Bengals. In Week 11, even the Vikings' below-average rushing attack managed to turn 28 carries into 154 yards. Lacking badly in playmaking talent, this unit struggles week after week to control the line or keep its angles. Long gone are the days in which Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe smothered opposing fronts to free up the linebackers. This group has issues on the defensive line as Mike Purcell, even at 330 pounds, has struggled in the run game, while D.J. Jones just comes off the ball a bit slow, even for a 300-pound defensive tackle. Safety Kareem Jackson is once again suspended, this time for four games, as the veteran safety returned for just one game before being suspended again. He did have nine tackles last week, which is a significant void that will be created in the secondary and could leave the Broncos susceptible to a big play, as Delarrin Turner-Yell has been one of the worst run-stopping safeties in the NFL this season.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
The Steelers fired Matt Canada and will promote running backs coach Eddie Faulkner to offensive coordinator. That should inspire confidence that they'll continue to lean on the ground game, which has come alive over the past three weeks. Jaylen Warren has taken on a meatier role, averaging 12 carries for 106 yards with 2 touchdowns. Even Najee Harris, who had plodded through a brutal start to the year, has averaged 15 for 62 with 2 touchdowns of his own. As long as Faulkner seeks to hide the inept passing game, Warren and Harris will remain front and center. Warren will continue to have the big play upside, while Harris will likely continue to see the majority of the touches on a week-to-week basis, given the trends that we've seen so far this season.
The Bengals' 2023 season had already been rocky, but when Joe Burrow was lost long-term, it completely unraveled. And much of the blame belongs on the defensive side of the ball, which has underperformed badly for most of the year. It's been especially vulnerable against the run, where opponents have produced 5.0 yards per attempt and 138 per game, both 31st league-wide. Over the past two weeks, they've been gashed by Houston's Devin Singletary (150 yards and 1 touchdown) and by the Ravens as a team (150 and 2). Now, with far less offensive support and a positive game script, this group could be blown wide open by the Steelers. The Bengals are stocked with a deep, versatile front line, but they continue to lack playmakers on the second level. For all their headlines, Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt remain mediocre linebackers, and All-Pro safety Jessie Bates III is sorely missed all over the back end as Nick Scott remains one of the league's worst run-stopping safeties, which led the Bengals to play rookie Jordan Battle over him last week for the majority of the game.
"Footballguys is the best premium
Continue reading this content with a PRO subscription.
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
"Footballguys is the best premium